Delphi Museum

Charioteer of Delphi

The Charioteer of Delphi is on display in the Delphi museum, and it’s one museum you shouldn’t miss. Some finds from ancient sites in Greece have ended up in the National Museum in Athens. When you visit Delphi you can see the artifacts discovered on the site in the local museum.

The Charioteer of Delphi is one of only a few remaining bronze statues from the Classical era. Sadly, the horse and chariot have not survived. He was part of a large votive offering dedicated by the tyrant Polyzalos of Geia in about 470 BC, to commemorate his victory in the chariot races of the Pythian Games in 478 or 474 BC.

Smaller parts of the group can be seen near the charioteer. There are fragments of three horse legs, and tail and parts of the reins. There is also the left arm of a boy, who is thought to be a young groom who would have led the horse out of the contest arena.

Charioteer of Delphi

Details of the charioteer

The expression on the face of the Charioteer of Delphi has been a source of debate for years. Some say there is no emotion expressed, no hint of either effort or triumph. Others see self-confidence, even pride in achieving success. When you visit the museum, take a look and see what you think.

You’ll notice the eyes are very realistic. White enamel was used for the white parts, and the iris around the black pupils was made from semi-precious stones. Very delicate bronze wires were used to make the eyelashes, and his lips were enhanced by fine plates of copper which gave a dull red effect.

The charioteer wears a long ‘chiton’ which the chariot race contestants wore, and which had a belt situated above the waist. Notice how well the feet are made, with realistic anatomical details. One theory of how the ancient craftsmen achieved such realism claims they made casts of real feet, and then used them for moulds for the bronze statue.

Siphnian Treasury frieze detail
Siphnian Treasury frieze detail

A remarkable collection

Although the charioteer is one of the most well-known treasures, the Delphi museum contains an exceptional number of sculptures and other artifacts.

The frieze from the Siphnian treasury is very impressive, and you can see how the sculptors created an illusion of depth.

The metopes from the Treasury of the Athenians show figures which are very precisely formed, and would have stood out well in the bright sunlight.

Ancient Greek helmets
Ancient Greek helmets
Sphinx of the Naxians
Sphinx of the Naxians

There are a number of Archaic sculptures, including two kouroi (figures of youths).

The sphinx which once stood on the column erected by the inhabitants of Naxos is very impressive.

There are some gold and ivory figures which were votive offerings buried under the Halos, and a silver bull.

To get the best out of your visit to the Delphi museum, buy the official guide. It will enhance your understanding of the exhibits, and is a worthwhile memento of your visit.

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